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Master The Pendlay Row Exercise – A Complete Guide On How To Do The Pendlay Row

Pendlay Row Exercise

Pendlay Row Exercise - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

30-Second-Summary
  • The pendlay row is a muscle strengthening exercise that targets the back muscles.
  • The pendlay row also works the full-body muscles such as the biceps, arms, deltoids, glutes, lats, chest, rhomboids, and core.
  • The pendlay row exercise involves lifting a barbell to the lower chest and back to the floor, with your upper back parallel to the floor.
  • Alternatives to pendlay row are bent-over row, double kettle pendlay row, reverse snow angel, dumbbell pendlay row, and straight arm pullover.
  • Always do warmups before pendlay row exercise and pick a manageable weight to prevent injuries.

Introduction

If you want a barbell row exercise where you don’t rely on the previous momentum, try the pendlay row. In the pendlay row, you follow a strict form where you bring the barbell down after each lift.

The creator of the pendlay row exercise, Glenn Pendlay, a weightlifting coach, recommends this barbell row variation exercise. Here, you maintain a flat back as you bend to lift the barbell using an overhand grip.

You then lift, pose for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly return the barbell to the floor and repeat the cycle every time.

Experts say the pendlay row form snatches, pulling moves, and deadlifts work the back muscles like the lats and rhomboids.

What Is The Pendlay Row?

The pendlay row exercise involves lifting a barbell with your hands while your back is flat and bent at the waist during the lift. Bend the knees slightly as you go for the barbell using an overhand grip. You brace your muscles as you lift, then pose, squeeze, and bring the barbell back down slowly until it rests.

There is a raging debate about pendlay row vs barbell row. But, the pendlay row is more challenging than the barbell row[1] since you lift the barbell from the floor every time, so the momentum is already lost. Therefore, you apply more energy and challenge your muscles to do another repetition.

In the end, pendlay row form improves your posture and strengthens many muscles, including the back and the arms. Otherwise, the barbell row builds more muscle endurance than strength.

The Pendlay Row Benefits

Pendlay Row Benefits
Below are some reasons why the pendlay row is beneficial for lifters and athletes of all types.

  • It helps build strong back muscles. When you do the pendlay row workout, you stress your back muscles and make your other muscles increase in size (hypertrophy process), toning the muscles like the lats, trapezius, and rhomboids. A bigger stronger back helps athletes perform better. And they get a better posture and balance.
  • Activation of full-body muscles. Many back exercises to strengthen muscles get support from benches, ropes, or cable machines. But the pendlay row only requires your body stability as you do the lifts. A pendlay row workout helps you use and activate almost all muscles for a successful barbell lift. So, you get overall fitness, stability, and balance.

  • Stronger muscles help you do other full-body exercises. With your lats, trapezius, and most body muscles well-conditioned, you will perform other compound exercises easily. E.g., pulls, deadlifts[2], barbell rows, lat pulldowns, hammer curls, powerlifts, squats, etc.

Who Does The Pendlay Row Suit?

  • Athletes doing resistance, power, and strength training. The pendlay row exercise helps build back and other muscles in the hypertrophy process. So, it allows athletes to do power workouts like powerlifts, weightlifts, deadlifts, and more. And they won’t be fearing muscle wear, tear, and many injuries since their muscles get conditioned.
  • Helps competitive fitness and cross-fit athletes. Doing pendlay row exercise conditions your back, lats, hips, arms, and many muscles. Competitive athletes yearning for fitness training will have an excellent base to do any isolation workout that improves their overall fitness without injuries. It helps the athletes compete better due to better stability, strength, and posture.
  • Everyone can perform it. Gym and general workout lovers find pendlay row exercise an all-around exercise when they master its basics like hip hinges and flexibility. Pendlay row improves their fitness, balance, flexibility, and posture. However, they should do warmups or start with less technical workouts, like seated row exercises, cable row, and bench curls, to reduce any incidence of back and wrist injuries.

How To Perform The Pendlay Row With Perfect Form

Perform The Pendlay Row

To do a pendlay row form:

  • Place a barbell in front of you. But, ensure you choose a weight that’s suitable for you to avoid injuries.
  • Stand with your feet and arms shoulder-width apart near the barbell. You may allow part of your feet to be under the barbell.
  • Bend your knees slightly and approach the barbell with your arms as you bend forward with your back parallel to the floor.
  • Grab the barbell with an overhand grip and adjust or hinge your hips at the waist. Also, brace your back[4] and abs muscles.
  • Lift the barbell to your abdomen near the chest and hold for 2 to 3 seconds. Squeeze the biceps, shoulder blades, and arm muscles, and bring the barbell back down slowly till it rests on the floor.
  • Always let your upper back remain parallel to the floor, and only the arms with the barbell and your shoulders move throughout each movement.
  • In addition, let your core and back remain tightened throughout, then repeat as necessary.

The Pendlay Row Vs Barbell Row

The pendlay row and barbell row exercises target strengthening the back muscles. However, the movements involved end up working several body muscles. The muscles conditioned include arm muscles, lats, abs, chest, glutes, hamstrings, deltoids, and more.

The two exercises have the same general moves and posture. But, you drop the barbell to the floor after each lift in pendlay row form workout. The barbell or weight remains in the air for the barbell row. This means that you can lift heavier weights in the pendlay row than in a barbell or bent-over row.

The pendlay row drill is better for strong muscles, while the barbell row wins for muscle endurance training.

So, brace your back and core muscles when doing the rows, and let your back remain neutral for the pendlay row. The upper body must remain parallel to the floor for the pendlay row while you incline at a 45-degree angle for the barbell row.

How To Do The Barbell Row

The barbell row or the barbell bent-over row is an easy but technical workout. It increases muscle strength, endurance, and size, particularly for powerlifters and bodybuilders. But, you can do it wrong if you are a beginner. To do it correctly:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the barbell over your foot (like in a conventional deadlift). The exercise increases muscle strength and size.
  • Bend at the waist, move your arms forward, and grab the bar with an overhand grip. You can do a variation with an underhand grip.
  • Pivot your hips back and lift the barbell to your knee height. Brace your core[5] and keep your upper back still.
  • Finally, extend your arms to lower the barbell slowly, but don’t let it rest on the floor.
  • Repeat the move a few times and let the barbell remain in the air throughout the exercise repetitions.

Comparison Between The Pendlay And Barbell Row

Pendlay And Barbell Row
Pendlay row vs barbell row battle shows a few similarities and differences.

For one, the two exercises use a barbell placed in front of you with your feet under it. Both involve bending your upper back with your feet and arms shoulder-width apart, though you may place the arms a bit wider.

Then, you grip the barbell with an overhand grip. But, you can vary to use an underhand grip as a variation. Finally, you lift the barbell until it touches the lower chest, pose a bit, then lower the barbell down. Ensure you keep your upper back tight[6] and neutral for both, and only let your arms move throughout.

The main difference between the two is that for the pendlay row exercise, you let the barbell drop to the floor before you do the next repetition. The barbell remains suspended throughout the repetitions in the barbell row.

Secondly, the pendlay row has a longer range of movement than the barbell row. So, the pendlay row helps you build more. Still, you can stand up straight as you bring the barbell to the knees for the barbell row before doing the lift.

The Pendlay Row Vs Barbell Row – Differences

Both these compound row exercises aim at building the same muscles. They are distinctly different in the following marked ways.

  • The pattern of movement – Since the barbell is always on the ground before you lift it in the pendlay row exercise, you can swiftly move and lift it from the floor. As such, you can lift heavier weights than in the barbell row.
  • Muscular hypertrophy – Though both exercises work similar muscles like the trapezius, rhomboids, lats, spine, arms, glutes, and more, the barbell row does more muscle hypertrophy[7] since you don’t release the weight after the lift.
  • Body positioning – You keep the upper body parallel to the floor for the pendlay row exercise but incline it at about 45 degrees in the barbell row.
  • Range of motion – You cover more distance for the pendlay row exercise as you move the barbell from the chest to the floor. The weight doesn’t reach the floor in the shorter range barbell exercise.
  • Strength building – By picking the barbell weight from the floor per repetition in the pendlay row exercise, you build more strength than in the barbell row. Also, you use a more explosive movement to grab the barbell from the floor when you perform the pendlay row.

Which Is Better For Stronger Main Lifts?

Stronger Main Lifts
The pendlay row vs barbell row for lifts shows both row exercises involve strength training, but the pendlay row exercise may carry the day here. For one, the pendlay row uses bigger weights.

Additionally, it has a longer range of motion. Plus, you use more strength to lift the barbell row from the floor each time. Still, the movements increase static and motion strength as you grab, clean, and jerk the barbell weight.

You can use the pendlay row as a strength training even for competition weightlifting sports[8] since the athletes pick the weight from the ground for each try. But, both help strengthen many muscles, particularly the lower back and upper body. That is, each time you pull, grab, deadlift, and powerlift as you brace and tighten the muscles before and during the lift.

For main lifts, you will do heavier lifts in the pendlay row vs barbell row.

Pendlay Row Alternatives

To avoid monotony, you can try the pendlay row variations below.

  • Straight arm pullover – With your knees bent and feet firmly on the ground, lie on your back and grab two dumbbells with an overhand grip. Extend the arms above your chest while holding the dumbbells[9]. Move your arms down till the dumbbells get to the floor. You may squeeze your lats and start again.
  • Reverse snow angel – Thrust your arms forward as you lie on your belly and your palms facing down. Lift your head, arms, and shoulders as high as possible. Next, spread your arms wide as you spread your legs at the same time. Then, bring both arms and legs back to the starting position. Always squeeze your lats strongly as you perform the exercise. Repeat a few times.

  • Double kettlebell pendlay row – The double kettlebell pendlay row[10] is similar to the pendlay row in form and execution. However, you use double kettlebells instead of a barbell. Double kettlebells pendlay row allows for individual weaknesses or strengths. So, it’s perfect for people with flexibility and hamstring problems. Some people even alternate the kettlebell lifts between their hands too.
  • The barbell row – Pitting pendlay row vs barbell row showed they are similar. But you don’t drop the barbell to the floor after each lift in the pendlay workout. The barbell remains in the air from start to finish and you incline your body at 45-degrees, and not parallel to the floor like in the pendlay row exercise.

How To Work Out Safely And Avoid Injury

  • Before doing any exercise, consult a doctor if you have a medical condition.
  • Always choose an appropriate weight that you can control during the workout.
  • For exercises where you lie down, keep your back flat or very close to the ground.
  • Listen to your body as you exercise for any pain and stop to avoid worsening an injury.
  • To pull up weights, always use your wrists instead of the arm.
  • Ensure you do warmups before strength training.
  • Rest for at least 24 hours between exercises working the same muscles.
  • Also, never round or relax your back between the row movements.
  • Take proper nutrition to help tone and support your fitness program.

Frequently Asked Questions

Generally, you use a dumbbell pendlay row or kettlebells to do a pendlay row since the movement has become unique with its own identity.

But some people refer to any pendlay row without a barbell as just a bent-over row and disregard the dumbbell pendlay row.

The pendlay row increases static and concentric strength, required in grab, clean, and jerk movements during a row lift. It uses bigger weights and a longer movement range, and it's better for the entire back strength, squats, and deadlifts.

The pendlay row exercise is a compound workout good for power and strength training to condition many muscle groups. Though the rows are mainly for back and arms muscles, they also work the lats, glutes, deltoids, hamstrings, and more.

You should start pendlay row form with a medium-weight barbell and aim at 3-6 repetitions. As you get used and to building stronger muscles, you can go for a heavier barbell and do 1-3 repetitions. Remember, heavier weights are better for muscle strength rather than endurance.

Place a barbell in front of you and stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Place your feet under the barbell, and bend your upper body parallel to the floor. With your arms wider than the shoulders, snatch the barbell with your overhand and lift it to the lower chest. Pivot your hips, brace your core, and tighten the muscles[11]. Hold the barbell a moment, then lower it down gradually till it rests on the floor. Repeat 3-6 times for medium weights and 1-3 for heavier ones. Always keep your back still, and parallel to the ground as you row.

Conclusion

The pendlay row exercise helps you build a strong back, lats, biceps, core, deltoids, glutes, and more. It’s aimed at the lower and upper back. Therefore, it’s a compound workout, but you can increase the weights to build stronger muscles as you get used.

Always start with warmups and medium weights before moving to heavier barbells. Also, you can do a kettlebell or dumbbell pendlay row if you lack a barbell.

The pendlay row form workout is similar to the barbell row, but you let the barbell drop to the ground for the pendlay row while the weight remains suspended for the bent-over row. The pendlay is suitable for powerlifts, deadlifts, pull-ups, and competition fitness programs.

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